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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 92-101
 Header Item Banking Sector
 Header Item Financial Services Regulation
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Banking Sector Remuneration
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 92-101

Banking Sector

 92. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the amount of money AIB spent on corporate hospitality in 2012 and 2013; if his Department has expressed a view to AIB on corporate hospitality expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7451/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware under the Relationship Framework the State does not intervene in the day to day operations of the bank or their management decisions regarding commercial matters. I have been informed by AIB that the bank does not disclose this information. The bank manages corporate hospitality within its commercial business requirements. AIB has a Code of Conduct in place for all staff which covers, inter alia, corporate hospitality. AIB Management and staff may accept or provide entertainment or gifts only if they are not intended to compromise independent decision making, are small in value and comply with applicable laws and regulations and are in accordance with internal thresholds.

Financial Services Regulation

 93. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if any further action is being taken by his Department or the National Treasury Management Agency following the overcharging of the National Pensions Reserve Fund by State Street Global Advisors when acting as portfolio manager on behalf of the National Pensions Reserve Fund; if the amount of the overcharging has been recovered; if any additional compensation is payable; the way the overcharging will impact on the manner in which the NPRF liquidates the discretionary portfolio; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7452/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), that State Street Global Advisors are a separate part of the State Street group from that involved in the overcharging issue. State Street Global Advisors managed a passive equity mandate for the NPRF. However, following the publication of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority's report on 31 January 2014, their services were terminated by the NPRF.

The full amount of overcharging has been recovered. Following the publication of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority's report on 31 January 2014, the NPRF Commission will now consider whether there is a case for compensation. With respect to the manner in which the NPRF liquidates investments, the NPRF has taken on board a combination of recommendations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General and internal recommendations to improve on the market standard approach previously used.

Tax Credits

 94. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of recipients of the one-parent family tax credit in each year from 2010 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7453/14]

 95. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the expected number of recipients of the single person child carer tax credit in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7454/14]

 96. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of claims for a tax repayment in respect of the one-parent family tax credit for the years 2010 to 2013 which have been received since the announcement of the abolition of the credit in budget 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7455/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 to 96, inclusive, together.

  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of individuals in receipt of the One Parent Family Credit (OPFC), for the years requested by the Deputy, are as set out.

OPFC

Year - Number

2010 - 95,500 (Revenue Statistical Report)

2011 - 104,200 (Revenue Statistical Report)

2012 - 101,400 (Estimate)

2013 - 76,800 (Provisional estimate based on preliminary data)

  These figures represent the number of individuals who were able to utilise the credit in whole or in part to reduce their tax liabilities.  The number of claimants of OPFC shown above may change given that a person has a four-year timeframe in which to claim a refund of tax.

  I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that OPFC has been granted to 3,943 individuals since 16 October 2013.  Based on information extracted from their records, claims relate to the following tax years:

YearNumber of Claims
2010667
20111,001
20121,549
20133,198
It should be noted that some individuals have claimed the tax credit for a number of years.  In addition, some of the claims shown may not be new claims and may be updated claims (i.e. credit being reinstated having been withdrawn previously).  It is not possible to provide data on actual new claims.

  The One-Parent Family Credit ceased with effect from 31 December 2013 and was replaced by the Single Person Child Carer Credit, (SPCCC), from 1 January 2014.  Only one credit in respect of any qualifying child is available.  This credit will only be granted to a primary claimant who has a qualifying child residing with him or her for the whole or greater part of a tax year; that is, for a period in excess of six months.  However, the primary claimant can surrender the credit to a secondary claimant where the child resides with the latter individual for at least 100 days in the year.

  To ensure the minimum inconvenience to taxpayers in the introduction of the new credit, Revenue automatically allocated it to individuals who had previously claimed the One-Parent Family Credit, and where Department of Social Protection records showed there was also an entitlement to Child Benefit.  This approach was adopted because entitlement to Child Benefit would generally indicate that the child resides with the individual for most of the year.

  The outcome of this automatic allocation was that 74,420 individuals were allocated the Single Person Child Carer Credit, at the start of 2014.  However, this number included all individuals entitled to the OPFC and in receipt of Child Benefit, regardless of whether the credit was of benefit to them in reducing their tax liabilities or not; for example, people who were unemployed or suffered a reduction in earnings, or who qualified for other allowances or reliefs which reduced their taxable income.  It also included individuals who are not entitled to the credit because their circumstances had changed   for example, they were now cohabiting- but Revenue had not been made aware of the change of circumstances.

  Currently 79,007 individuals have been allocated the credit.  This is an increase of almost 4,600 since the start of the year, representing individuals who were entitled to the credit but were not automatically allocated it; for example, because Child Benefit was not being paid to the claimant in respect of the child. This figure includes 538 cases where the credit has been relinquished by the primary claimant and subsequently taken up by a secondary claimant.

  It is not possible, at this stage, to quantify the final number of individuals who will claim or will be allocated the SPCCC for 2014, nor how many of those individuals will be able to utilise it in whole or in part to reduce their tax liabilities.  However, in assessing the budgetary effect of the new measure, Revenue calculated that the new SPCCC would be availed of by 13,400 fewer claimants than the OPFC.

Banking Sector Remuneration

 97. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of meetings his Department officials have had with AIB which included discussion of a reinstatement of bonuses at the bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7456/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware this Government's policy with respect to banking remuneration has been in place since mid-2011. In summary, remuneration in State supported banks is capped at €500,000 (excluding normal pension entitlements) and the payment of bonuses is not permitted.

I can confirm that at a meeting which took place between AIB and officials from the Department of Finance in January 2014, AIB raised the issue of new staff incentivisation measures in the context of our shared objective to return the bank to profitability and ultimately deliver a return for the taxpayer.

No policy changes are planned in the area of banking remuneration. I personally reinforced this point when my officials and I met the Chairman and a number of Board members earlier this week.

Tax Credits

 98. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has had their tax credits significantly reduced in the context of the one-parent family tax credit, which resulted in their marginal rate of tax being increased from the 20% standard rate to 41% while they are still paying a mortgage and contributing significant funding towards the upkeep of their children; if there are any tax credits available in relation to maintenance payments made by them for the maintenance of their spouse and children; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7458/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The new Single Person Child Carer Credit (SPCCC) is of the same value i.e. €1,650 per annum as the one-parent family tax credit and it also carries the same entitlement to the additional €4,000 extended standard rate band, which increases it to €36,800 per annum, before liability to the higher rate of income tax arises. However, the credit is more targeted, in that it is in the first instance, only available to the principal carer of the child. A system that allows multiple claims in respect of the same child or children is unsustainable. The change follows a recommendation from the Commission on Taxation that the credit should be retained but that it should be allocated to the principal carer only. In order to qualify for the credit the principal carer cannot be married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting.

The principal carer is initially being identified as the person who is receiving Child Benefit in respect of the child. Where, for whatever reason, a principal claimant who is entitled to the credit does not wish to avail of it, he or she can choose to surrender it to a secondary claimant. A secondary claimant may then make a claim for the credit, provided that the qualifying child resides with him or her for not less than 100 days in the tax year. The secondary claimant cannot be married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in the case in question, the SPCCC has automatically been granted to the principal carer (i.e. the ex-spouse of the individual referred to in the Deputy's question).

I should point out that there is no specific tax credit for children in the tax code. Therefore, married or cohabiting couples are unable to avail of any additional credit to assist them in the financial maintenance of their children. In certain cases, such couples also need to maintain two households due to the location of employment, for example.

Legally enforceable maintenance payments made for the benefit of a separated or former spouse or civil partner are fully deductible for tax purposes in the hands of the payer and are treated as taxable income in the hands of the recipient. Alternatively separated spouses or separated civil partners may elect to continue to be jointly assessed in which case no regard is taken of the maintenance payment.

Maintenance payments made for the benefit of children are not deductible for tax purposes. However, they are also not treated as income in the hands of the beneficiary. This is similar to the tax treatment of monies used by married couples for the maintenance of their children. Ultimately, child maintenance payments are a matter for parents and if necessary, the courts to decide. It is not possible, and indeed would not be appropriate, for the tax code to take account of every possible variable.

In Budget 2012, in recognition of the difficulty some people have in meeting their mortgage commitments, I fulfilled a Programme for Government commitment to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first time buyers who took out their first mortgage between 2004 and 2008. This was the period during which house prices peaked. In addition, the increased rate of tax relief for first time buyers who took out their first mortgage in that period will continue up to and including the 2017 tax year.

 

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 99. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the actions he will take to deal with the call made to him by parents of the outreach classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 in respect of the proposed closure of this school with particular consequences for the two ASD classes; if he will appreciate the serious concerns of the parents and the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7300/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm for the Deputy that while my Department is aware of the Patron's proposals to merge three schools including the school to which he refers, I have not received any proposal from the Patron in the matter. The initiative for any amalgamation or re-organisation may come from a variety of sources, such as parents, staff, Boards of Management and patron. Any such proposal to amalgamate schools must involve consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders and follow decisions taken at local level. The decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron of a school, subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills.

The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country has been a key educational priority in recent years. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

The NCSE met recently with the principals from the three schools in question in relation to the issue of an amalgamation with particular reference to the autism classes in the school. The SENO has also met with some of the parents concerned. The NCSE will continue to liaise with these schools on the concerns raised.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 100. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 60 of 22 January 2014, the way a person under 23 years of age may prove their estrangement from their family in order to be assessed on their own means for Student Universal Support Ireland grant applications in cases where a social worker will not see them because they are over 18 years, a youth worker or family support worker will not see them as they have never been linked in to that worker before, and they are not in need of a Health Service Executive counselling service; and if he will list any other appropriate officers of the HSE who may be able to attest to a person being estranged from their family.  [7208/14]

 101. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if provision of evidence from a GP will be accepted as evidence of estrangement for the purposes of persons under 23 years of age applying for Student Universal Support Ireland grants based on assessment of their own means.  [7209/14]

 104. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason Student Universal Support Ireland will not accept the same standard of proof that a person under 23 years of age is not residing in the family home and is estranged from their family for the purposes of assessing them on their own means for grants that the Department of Social Protection accepts for assessing eligibility for social welfare payments.  [7212/14]

 105. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 60 of 22 January 2014, the relevant legislative provision, circular or statutory instrument which stipulates that independent verification of estrangement for assessment of Student Universal Support Ireland applications may only be provided by the persons listed in this reply; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that SI 159 of 2013, section 21(3)(b), contains no such list of persons and states that a student may be assessed on their own means where it is established to the satisfaction of the relevant awarding authority that the student is irreconcilably estranged from their parents and that financial supports are not being provided to them; the reasons SUSI is not satisfied with evidence of proof of estrangement in the form of records of living outside the family home, letters from GPs, college counselling services or correspondence from other Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7226/14]

 108. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the fact that under the Mental Health Act, a general practitioner is considered an approved officer of the Health Service Executive to make a recommendation for a patient to be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility in their capacity as that person's GP; and the reason a person's GP is not deemed sufficiently qualified by Student Universal Support Ireland to attest to the fact a person is estranged from their family for the purposes of assessing an application for a grant.  [7265/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 101, 104, 105 and 108 together.

  As advised to the Deputy in previous Parliamentary Questions, for student grants purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or a legal guardian, or as independent mature students. Where the applicant is a dependent student, the income of the applicant and his/her parents must be taken into account in calculating whether the means are within the limits to be eligible for a grant.

  The Student Grant Scheme S.I. No 159 of 2013 makes provision in Article 21(3) which allows a dependent student to be exempted from having parents' income taken into account where it is established to the satisfaction of the relevant awarding authority that the dependent student is irreconcilably estranged from both of his or her parents and neither of his or her parents furnishes financial support to him or her. This provision allows the awarding authority to assess dependent students, in genuine estrangement cases, without reference to their parents/guardians income or address. Cases of genuine estrangement are relatively rare and each one has unique circumstances. The scheme does not stipulate precisely how an awarding authority satisfies itself. This is to allow the grant awarding authority sufficient flexibility to assess the evidence of irrevocable estrangement in each individual case.

The assessment of a case of estrangement however has to be carefully considered to ensure there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the exceptional circumstances pertaining in such cases genuinely exists. The type of evidence required is dependent on the applicant's individual circumstances. Compelling evidence of irreconcilable estrangement must be provided to allow a grant awarding authority to fully satisfy itself that the conditions for the application of exemption are met. An awarding authority in assessing the evidence presented will have regard to the particular circumstances in each case and the corroborative nature of the evidence available to support the claim of estrangement.

Different State support schemes have different objectives and in this case parents have a responsibility to support their children attending college. Where they fail to do so, the grant awarding authority must satisfy itself that genuine and irreconcilable estrangement exists. Confirmation that a student is living separately from his/her parents/guardians is not sufficient, as very significant numbers of third level students move out of the family home while at college and continue to be supported by their parents while in full-time education. The purpose of the student grant scheme is to provide an additional assistance where parental income is below a certain threshold and warrants additional assistance by way of a grant.

Evidence from services, including the Courts services and the Health Service Executive, working in a professional capacity with the family of the student, which demonstrates and confirms the genuine and irreconcilable nature of the estrangement would generally be necessary for an awarding authority to satisfy itself of the veracity of the case. The appropriate officer(s) depends the individual's particular circumstances. A letter from a GP would generally not be acceptable in isolation. However, where a GP could demonstrate referring the student to relevant professional support services, the GP report could be considered in conjunction with a report from the specific support service utilised.


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